The mediating role of rumination in the relation between attentional bias towards thin female bodies and eating disorder symptomatology

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The present study sought to investigate the association between selective attentional processing of body images, rumination, and eating disorder symptoms in young women. Seventy-three undergraduate female students (ages 17-24) completed a modified dot-probe task to assess whether young women showed a differential attentional bias pattern towards thin and non-thin female bodies. Participants also completed self-report measures of eating disorder pathology. It was found that increased reports of dietary restraint and body dissatisfaction were associated with both greater attentional bias towards thin bodies and avoidance of non-thin bodies (as compared to neutral images), although the former relationship was stronger than the latter. The results suggest attentional vigilance to thin-ideal images plays a greater role in the potential development and/or maintenance of eating disorder symptoms, at least in a university sample of young women. Results also revealed that eating disorder-specific rumination mediated the relationship between attentional bias to thin ideal images and eating disorder symptoms. These findings build on existing research and theories, for example the impaired disengagement model of rumination, and have potential clinical applications such as specifically targeting ruminative and/or attentional processes in the prevention and/or treatment of eating disorder symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0177870
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2017


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